The Path Of Totality isn’t just the title of Korn’s tenth studio album, but also the title of an album released in May of this year by Brooklyn black-metal band Tombs. Since it formed nearly 20 years ago, Korn’s never been bashful about its flat-out aping of musical styles, so why should we expect anything different when it comes to an album title? Well, we shouldn’t. Perhaps we should also just shut up and accept that the opening track of Korn’s album’s called “Chaos Lives In Everything,” and the opening lyric of Tombs’ Path Of Totality is “chaos reigns.”
The California band’s considered an “innovator” of the dreadful—I repeat, dreadful—nu-metal category, fusing metal and hip-hop with terrible—I repeat, terrible—musical consequences. Just like New Kids On The Block, who found a way to combine the “edgy” appearance of the Beastie Boys with highly-marketable innocence, Korn took bits of gangster rap swagger and post-grunge apathy to create the perfect soundtrack for the disgruntled outcasts of Middle America (well, at least until the Insane Clown Posse came along).
Korn’s now attaching its plow to the dubstep craze of 2011. As many publications have argued over the last several months—for example, Spin, whose October cover article addressed the new rave craze led by brostep spokesman and recent Grammy-nominee Skrillex—dubstep has taken U.S. audiences by storm this year. But, if London dubstep purists rolled their eyes at James Blake’s appropriation of the genre for pop-friendly purposes, then they’re likely blowing their brains out over the fact that Skrillex has created an over-the-top, stadium-ready version of the music. Sorry, but it was bound to happen sooner or later. Despite the naysaying, there’s no denying that kids across the country are going mega-bananas for the stuff, seduced by the big budget productions and aggressive vibe in a year that indie-music has become unbearably more precious.
But it’s not enough for Korn to just grab ahold of the hot new sound—that wouldn’t be Korn-y enough. A few weeks ago, lead singer Jonathan Davis told Billboard that Korn invented dubstep: “We were dubstep before there was dubstep,” he said. Before there was Burial, Benga, Code9 and Skream, there was Korn. And, dubstep didn’t grow out of London’s garage scene, or have anything to do with that particular moment in the city’s socio-cultural history—it was just a previously unarticulated aspected of nu-metal that didn’t fully emerge until young American producers like Skrillex extracted nu-metal’s hidden dubstep kernel.
So, how does this sucker sound? Not very good. Skrillex is featured on two tracks, and there’s also production by dubstep producers Noisia, Excision, Downlink, Kill The Noise, 12th Planet, Feed Me and Datsik. While the album certainly captures the youthful energy of the neo-dubstep sound, it still sounds quite dated. It’s little more than a 90’s nu-metal album with some sub bass and wobble-punches thrown in. If you already hate Korn, this is an invitation to hate them even more. If you’re a devotee of pre-Skrillex dubstep, well, you’ve already killed yourself twice. Even Skrillex fans, who are likely too young to know what the hell Korn is, will probably avoid this clunker. This is really for the Korn fans—the diehards who’ve stood beside the band since those early days when it invented dubstep.
And they’re probably gonna love it, for the fact of the matter is that the Skrillex-sound works well with Korn’s. Both are big, dumb, angry and moody. But how will the two demographics react when they meet up in the flesh–the 30-something Korn fan with his baggy black clothes, purple hair, rusty face piercings and frown, and the teenage neo-raver with his tight, neon-hipster uniform and post-ironic smile? Only time will tell. While this album’s not as much of a mind-fuck as Metallica and Lou Reed’s dreadful Lulu, a Korn-Skrillex world tour might be the most mind-fucking event of 2012. I’d pay to see that.